Fermi National Laboratory

Volume 22  |  Friday, August 6, 1999  |  Number 15
In This Issue  |  FermiNews Main Page

Lanning Lends a Hand With Learning

Tour Guide Specializes in Helping Visitors Feel at Home at Fermilab.

by Stephanie Holmes

Nancy Lanning is one of a kind. Nancy Lanning points out the attractions on Wilson Hall's 15th floor.

Lanning is Fermilab's one and only Public Information Specialist. Along with working in the Education Department, and registering participants for the many classes held at the Lab, Lanning schedules and leads group tours of the site.

Originally an elementary school teacher in Minnesota, Lanning has been giving tours since she began working at Fermilab in 1988 as an on-call docent, volunteering her time at the Lederman Science Education Center. Two years later, she joined Public Information. She has been working there and with the Education Department for the past nine years.

Lanning's interest in physics extends back to her teaching days.

"I took a physics for elementary school teachers’ type of class," she recalls. That piqued her interest, prompting her to do more reading. Since then, she has always been eager to learn more about physics.

For Lanning, autumn and late spring are the busiest times of year.

"The adult tours generally consist of senior citizen groups, and (autumn and spring) are when they like to get out," she explains. With mostly senior citizens and students, Lanning says she gives about 40 tours per year, assisted by docents who also direct tours of the Lab.

Scheduling tours can be more complicated than simply setting a time and place to meet. Lanning notes that with the student tours, she often has to work around bus schedules and school hours. Student tours are also challenging because most school groups want to come at the same time, around the end of the school year in May and June.

A self-guided tour is an alternative way to view the Lab. The self-guided tour rolls all the tours into one, starting out on the 15th floor of Wilson Hall, then moving to the first floor Atrium, and to other locations on the Fermilab site. The self-guided tour also allows visitors to spend as much time as they want in the areas that interest them, and to bypass areas that don't hold their attention.

The tours at Fermilab can be customized according to the interests of the group. For example, college students usually get view an experiment like the CDF or DZero particle detectors.

"I have to find a physicist who is willing to take the students there, and also be their guide," Lanning says. "I'm happy to talk about the buildings and the grounds, but I prefer a to have a physicist talk with them about the experiments."

Younger age groups usually stay near Wilson Hall and the Lederman Science Center. Lanning also knows a little bit about the prairie and would like to learn more with the possibility of starting prairie tours.

What do guests see when they are on a tour?

First, most groups head to the 15th floor observation area to see exhibits of the many facets of the Lab and the site, from the Native American artifacts discovered during site construction, to the Top Quark Discovery. There are also expansive views of the grounds, the buildings, the Tevatron and Main Injector rings, and, on a clear day, the Chicago skyline some 40 miles to the east.

After the 15th floor, visitors get to look at the art gallery and other displays on the first and second floors of Wilson Hall. After that, each group might head somewhere different. A health physics class might go to the Neutron Therapy facility, while an ecology class takes off for the prairie.

"The groups are a lot of fun," says Lanning. Group tours must have at least 10 people, and no more than 40. Though the maximum is 40 people, a group of 25 is usually the most that one guide can handle alone. There are also pick-up tours, where several individuals or small groups combine to form a single group to view the Lab—just like a pick-up game on a playground.

Lanning admits that she sometimes finds herself saying the same things repeatedly, but counters that the variety of groups she meets makes each tour unique and interesting. "I had a kid faint once," she remembers.

Lanning enjoys her job. "Sometimes you just meet really nice people, and they're interested, and things just sort of click."

Anyone interested in going on an organized tour should call at least a week in advance to arrange it. Self-guided tour brochures are available at the information desk at the main entrance of Wilson Hall.”

last modified 8/6/1999   email Fermilab